From: Crossroads 12-98
Daniel Gore
Ways That Are Dark
Elephant Rock, (888) 685-9665
by: Jonathan Colcord

  Horace Kephart was archiving the lives of mountain folk in his own way through writing and photography well before people like Alan Lomax, or Moses Asch started recording the music of those people. This CD is a musical journey inspired by Kephart’s book Our Southern Highlanders published originally in 1913 and put together by Daniel Gore. Following the stories of those he knew in North Carolina, Kephart retold stories of illegal liquor as it related to taxes, family-feuds, and the Native American population of that region.

  A studded cast of bluegrass regulars dot this recording. Gore authored all of the songs on the CD but he seems to have ingeniously crafted each song for the performers involved with each. Peter Rowan is the most present, contributing vocals and guitar to many songs. Tim O’Brien’s handling of the song makes it sound like one of the many he has penned himself. The same goes for the Rowan cuts. With the title song Ways That Are Dark, Gore has even included a line often uttered by Rowan via Bill Monroe such as in the chorus with the phrase ancient tones: There are ways that are dark as a leaf from the past, ancient tones haunt the hollers and the coves. There are bones of the raven that flew from Noah’s Ark. In the hills there are ways that are dark. The song placement on the CD is such that the storyline of one song often seems to directly relate to the next such as Noah’s raven, In The Snakestick Man and A Sugarland Raid, the theme is first the arrest of local Cherokee in a trade of goods for liquor by the government tax men - - carved snake head canes. Following, in the song A Sugarland Run we revisit the snakestick theme again.

  The flow is a great mixture of Monroe-style bluegrass and some Scotch-Irish inspired folk music, Mary Miller adds some wonderful lead vocals to French Broad written once again by Gore and sounding much like a traditional song. Miller also sings beautiful harmony with Rowan on songs such as The Snakestick Man which has a waltz melody and beautiful twin-fiddling from Rickie Simpkins on both fiddles. Other fine musicians here include Tony Williamson, Jack Lawrence, Craig Smith, and other notables. Gore truly knew what he was dong on this project and even took a backseat to performers he lined up, himself playing on only a few pieces. Enough cannot be said about this incredible project. Just go get it and devour it.